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Journalists Report to the Fields to Learn About IPM

Writers and editors from major publications learned the ABC's of IPM in New York City and on farm and greenhouse visits in Orange County last June.

photo of Dave Schmidt and Sylvia Rowe
Dave Schmidt and Sylvia Rowe of IFIC admire the flowers in an Orange County greenhouse. Photo: M. Haining Cowles

 

What is integrated pest management and how should writers explain it? About two dozen writers and editors - some freelancers and some representing major U.S. magazines and newspapers - got an extended answer to these questions in a two-day workshop held in New York City and Orange County in June 1996. The workshop, titled "IPM: In Partnership with Nature," consisted of presentations about integrated pest management interspersed with visits to IPM greenhouses and IPM fruit, vegetable, and dairy farms.

"This was our best workshop to date," said Sylvia Rowe, President of the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC), comparing the New York media workshop to two previous workshops for the media held in other states. Her organization and the National Foundation for IPM Education cosponsored the workshop, with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Cornell University, the New York State IPM Program, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orange County.

Workshop participant Edith Hogan, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, kept a list of sound bytes such as "spray and pray," a grower's description of conventional pest management, and "environmental stewardship" and "harness nature," key components of the IPM philosophy. Hogan plans to inform her urban audience about IPM by relating its principles to gardening, the number one U.S. hobby.

photo of Anastasia Schepers
Workshop participant Anastasia Schepers, assistant editor of Environmental Nutrition, with onion grower Sam Cavallaro in an Orange County onion field. Photo: M. Haining Cowles

During the Orange County tour, ably led by Cornell Cooperative Extension educators Lucy Joyce and Maire Ullrich, participants heard growers praise IPM for both its economic and environmental savings. Onion grower John Cavallaro told them about rotation with sudangrass, a cover crop that, when plowed under, naturally releases a gas that kills microscopic pests in the soil. Planting sudangrass costs Cavallaro $25 per acre, whereas the alternative, soil fumigation with a chemical pesticide, costs him $600-700 per acre.

Apple grower Jeff Crist, of Walden, told the participants, "We'd dearly love not to have to spray at all. For one thing, I wouldn't have to get up at 4:45 a.m." Additional time with his wife and three children is one advantage to Crist's adoption of IPM methods. His farm has employed a full-time IPM scout for many years.

While in New York City, participants heard about the national IPM initiative from EPA's Dr. Janet Andersen, director of the Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention Division, and Larry Elworth, Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at USDA. Dr. Donald Davidsen, the commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets, Dr. Jim Tette, director of the New York IPM Program, and two Orange County growers (Russell Kowal, of Goshen, and Deborah Sweeton, of Warwick) spoke about New York State's dedication to IPM. Colleen Wegman, of Wegmans Food Markets, Tom Facer, of Comstock Michigan Fruit, and Dr. Molly Anderson, of the Tufts University School of Nutrition, gave updates on IPM in the marketplace.

Participants represented publications such as McCall's, Country Living, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, and Eating Well. Throughout the year many of these writers have published stories on IPM that help the general public understand the challenges agricultural producers face as they strive to improve their environmental stewardship.